Dahlonega Plateau AVA – What does this mean?

Dahlonega Wineries
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Dahlonega Plateau AVA – What does it mean

The Dahlonega Plateau AVA was created on November 22, 2016 by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). This is great, but what does it mean? I mean, an AVA, so what? Well, I plan to explain it as briefly as possible. I’ll discuss what an AVA is, what the requirements are to be an AVA, and once you have an AVA, what does it mean for production. I’ll also briefly look at what the Dahlonega Plateau AVA is known for, where it is, and how big it is, as well as how many wineries are in it.

First, what is an AVA and what does it mean? An AVA is an American Viticulture Area. Okay, big deal. Well, it kind of is. See, in order to be an AVA, you need to have a delimited grape-growing region with distinguishing features, a name, and a delineated boundary. What this does is it allows vintners and consumers to attribute a quality, reputation, or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in an area to the wine’s geographic origin. Once established, an AVA allows vintners to more accurately describe the origin of their wines and helps consumers to identify the wines prior to purchase. Basically, it means that you should expect certain things from wines in that region, AND winemakers should also strive to showcase these features. As a consumer, you know what to expect from wines produced in an AVA.

Second, what does it take to become an AVA? In order to establish an AVA, one must petition the TTB and provide the following:

  1. Evidence that the proposed area is nationally or locally known by the name being proposed
  2. An explanation for the defining boundary.
  3. A description of what features makes the proposed area affected differently for viticulture than its surrounding areas.
  4. A United States Geological Survey (USGS) map showing the location of the proposed AVA with its boundaries.
  5. Finally, a detailed narrative description of the proposed AVA boundary based of the USGS markings (AS IF it wasn’t detailed enough already).

So you can see that it is a detailed, lengthy, time consuming and in depth process to establish an AVA.

Lastly in the description of what an AVA is, would be what it means for production. To sum it up, no less than 85% of the volume of the wine must be from within the AVA, to use the AVA designation on their label. That leaves a pretty good amount of wiggle room if you were to ask me.

Now let’s get into the Dahlonega Plateau AVA, and what it means. The AVA is known for its topography and climate. Basically, rolling hills and climate that is ideal for most Vitis vinifera grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot. The rolling hills allow for cooler temperatures, rather than flatter terrain that just results in higher temperatures. This allows the grape species named above to thrive for wine purposes, as it extends the growing season, affects rainfall drainage, and fully ripen at a slower pace. It is not good for Pinot Noir, and Riesling, which do better at lower temperatures, or Muscadine, which does better at higher temperatures. Due to the amount of rainfall inside the AVA, irrigation is seldom required.

So, based off of this we have a little area located in Lumpkin and White counties, is approximately 133 square miles in size, with seven wineries and eight commercial vineyards covering about 110 acres throughout the AVA. There were plans at the time of filing, to plant another 12 acres under vine within the AVA.

This is very wine geeky in nature, but I hope it helps to explain what an AVA is, and how it can impact wine from that area. More importantly, I hope it explained the Dahlonega Plateau AVA, and what it means for North Georgia Wine. I’d like to also thank the Federal Registry for providing the information that I used for this article. I literally couldn’t have written it without them.

Book a tour with ATL Vineyard Express today and see some of the wineries in this new AVA.

Tom Ward

Tom’s life, knowledge, and passion for wine is something that he is excited to share with every guest that he comes in contact with and looks forward to joining them on their wine education and experiences.